Wool exporters cast doubt on AWI claims

Wool exporters casts doubt on Merriman's claims


Wool
Photo: Joe Armao

Photo: Joe Armao

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AUSTRALIA’S wool export industry has weighed-in on the Australia Wool Innovation saga, criticising the industry group for claiming responsibility for current wool prices.

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AUSTRALIA’S wool export industry has weighed-in on the Australia Wool Innovation saga, criticising the industry group for claiming responsibility for current wool prices.

Australian Council of Wool Exporters and Processors (ACWEP) president Matthew Hand has dubunked claims made by AWI chairman Wal Merriman’s, in a recent letter to shareholders aimed at influencing the board succession prior to the upcoming election.

In an statement sent to industry heads, Mr Hand said it was “arrogant” for an individual organisation to claim current record prices were a result of its work.

“Demand was never sufficient to support the one billion kilograms of wool grown in Australia alone during 1989/90, a level supported only by an unrealistic floor price scheme,” he said.

“Let’s not have short memories after 25 years plus of rebuilding; and make sure that we remember how we found our industry in that position.

“Together we’ve experienced and endured a long period of recovery, and now see our industry is in an enviable position with true potential for longevity that is not to be taken for granted.”

He said consumer appetite in favour of natural fibres had increased demand.

Mr Merriman sent a letter which he said was designed to “correct some untruths and innuendo presented in the press”.

The letter was dated October 25, the day after a Senate estimates hearing where AWI were questioned on perceived conflicts of interest and vote stacking.

In the letter, Mr Merriman claimed brokers, buyers and growers “unanimously agree” the Wool Excahnge Portal project should proceed. This has been denied by the head of industry bodies, including Mr Hand.

While the ACWEP “understands the potential value”, he said woolgrower-based concerns remain.

“We are yet to fully learn how it is ultimately intended to operate and where any significant cost benefits or market gains will be achieved,” he said.

Mr Hand said collaboration between AWI, Australian Wool Testing Authority and Australian Wool Exchange should be investigated to increase competitive tension and eliminate cost of duplication.

“We ask that we are consulted and that we have significant involvement in further development of the WEP to ensure that the key first transaction happens securely, ensuring Australian woolgrowers can continue to be rewarded for their long-term commitment to producing this special fibre,” he said.​

In response to the letter’s backlash, Mr Merriman has made a public correction online. 

“My recent letter to shareholders may have caused some confusion when I stated ‘Wool Handlers Australia, in conjunction with Landmark, are building a similar complementary portal in their businesses’,” he reportedly wrote online. 

“I have now been advised that this is incorrect and while Landmark own some 50 percent of Wool Handlers Australia, they are a separate entity and are themselves not building a complementary wool portal.” 

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